Monday, November 17, 2014

Why I Can’t Stop Thinking About Rebecca Minkoff’s Connected Store

Written by 

Alicia head shot
I can’t seem to contain my excitement after seeing the new Rebecca Minkoff flagship in SoHo, New York City yesterday.

For those of you who or are unfamiliar with the New York City area, Greene Street — where the Rebecca Minkoff store is located — is basically the Mecca of fashion. Luxury names, such as Jill Stuart, Jack Spade, Tiffany & Co. and Stella McCartney are dispersed along the block. Startup darlings, including Warby Parker and Piperlime also have flagships nearby. 

But let’s get to the fun part of the story, shall we? Upon entering the flagship I was taken aback by an enormous display showing b-roll footage of Rebecca Minkoff videos and fashion shows. A representative eventually greeted me and proceeded to walk me through the connected retail experience, which starts at the front display and ends in the fitting room.

Let me tell you: I’m not usually one to get super excited over these types of experiences. We’ve seen so many “potential use cases” and “hypotheticals” that after a while they tend to be underwhelming. You can only hear “there are no retailers implementing this” so many times. But there it was! The connected store in the flesh!

I felt like a young child on her first day of school: Excited but suspicious. Would this meet my expectations or fall short?

We started out going through the interactive display experience. When you tap the screen, the b-roll footage moves to the back and you can sift through lookbooks and product pages. When you find an item you like, you select your size and press “add to my fitting room.”

When you’re done digitally browsing, you enter your mobile phone number so you can be alerted when your fitting room is ready. Feeling thirsty? That’s fine, because you can order a glass of champagne, water, coffee or tea through the digital interface so you can rehydrate while you wait.

After you walk into your fitting room, the interactive mirror turns on. Thanks to RFID technology, the mirror recognizes all the items you’re trying on, and provides product recommendations straight from Rebecca Minkoff herself. You can adjust the lighting in the room to reflect the environment you’ll be in. For example, if you’re going to a black tie event, you can dim the lighting a bit. If you’re looking for a dress for a daytime wedding, you can make the lighting brighter. Goodbye, ugly florescent lighting that I so dread!

What I personally loved about this part of the experience is that we saw a benefit to RFID that is not often discussed. Typically, RFID is included in conversations regarding inventory accuracy and supply chain management. This time, it played a key role in engaging the shopper, and showed retailers another reason to invest in the technology.

Now, back to the shopping experience. Should you need a new size for an item you try on, or are interested in taking a recommended product for a test run, don’t fret! You just tap on a button on the interactive mirror to alert a store associate that you need some assistance.

At the end of the shopping experience, you can either purchase your items or save them to your digital shopping bag. All items browsed, added to cart and purchased are saved to your Rebecca Minkoff mobile app.

Throughout the entire demo, there was not a single technology glitch. Everything ran swiftly and smoothly, and definitely made me sad that I had to head back to the office and couldn’t shop anymore!

Apparently, this is the first store implementing this type of experience, but Rebecca Minkoff will be implementing this connected store concept in a west coast location very soon. Be on the lookout for what’s to come from Rebecca Minkoff and the folks at eBay Inc., because I’m sure they’ll be making more moves very soon!

It’s safe to say, the future of retail is officially here and it definitely is going to make my life easier!

To view the original article please visit: 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The 2014 Ultimate Holiday Shopping Guide

Once the turkey settles, holiday shopping season officially begins. This year, shoppers can expect more than 40,000 deals between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and retailers are expecting November and December sales to top $616.9 billion.

The following infographic examines what consumers and retailers can expect during the first few days of the 2014 Holiday Shopping Season, beginning with Thanksgiving and running through #GivingTuesday.

Click to enlarge

To view the original article visit:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Marketing to Millennials

By Hannah West

If your store has been around for a few years, you probably have some loyal customers you know by name. Many of these customers are part of the Baby Boomer generation and respond well to more traditional marketing and advertising.

But there is a new generation in town. When young adults born after the early 1980s reach 18, they are grouped into a category called "Millennials" or "Generation Y." Ten years ago they may have been running around your store asking their parents to purchase items FOR them, but now they have their own disposable income.

Here are some things to keep in mind when trying to get more Millennials in your doors:

1. They grew up with technology

When it comes to technology, it is like second nature to Millennials. They grew up with cell phones, computers in school and some may have even read their college textbooks on a screen rather than a page. They have plenty of ways to access information from anywhere. Millennials are not only accessing information from computers, but laptops, tablets and phones! Some fast solutions to their even faster lifestyles:
  • Mention in your emails that discounts will be included if you show the email at the cash register on a cell phone.
  • Share your sales, news and promotions on social media sites as well as email and traditional media. Luckily, SnapRetail makes this easy for our subscribers with an option to automatically repurpose an email for social media.
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  • Run Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest-exclusive promotions or contests.
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  • Invest in offering a smartphone app.

2. They have different priorities than older generations

Since Millennials cover a wide span of ages, your customers can range anywhere from an 18-year-old girl looking for dorm accessories to a 27-year-old father looking for a gift for his young son. Every customer is different, but had this to say about the spending priorities of young adult consumers: "Whereas older adults prioritized family-focused expenditures… today's Millennials spend their money on themselves, primarily on technology and travel."
There IS good news when it comes to Millennial shopping habits. According to a study done by Edelman Digital, 40% of Millennials claimed to prefer buying local. Appeal to Millennials' preferences by:
  • Emphasizing the "shop local" movement in your marketing messages. Take note of important events such as Independent Retailer Month (July) and Small Business Saturday (November).
  • Focusing on what products can do for individual customers in your messaging. How will this benefit them and their busy lives?

3. They love "sharable" purchases

When a Millennial loves a product, everyone knows. And if they hate it, the same rule applies. Millennials love to share their product feedback on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and any other medium possible. As much as they love telling others what to buy, they also look to the web to make their own buying decisions. Another Edelman study revealed that 42% of Millennials check four or more sources when they are trying to decide whether to pay for a product or service. This may be due to the way Millennials connect to products and what purchasing these products says about them. According to, "Sharability of the experience and 'association' are twice as important to Millennials as to Boomers. Millennials don't only think about how they should share their thoughts on a product, they think of how associating themselves with the product will make them look. Give them something to talk about by:
  • Claim online listings on sites such as Yelp, Foursquare and Facebook places and encourage customers to check in and review.
  • Encourage customers to add photos of themselves using purchases or tweet at your store to let you know how much they love their purchase or experience.
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Marketing to Millennials is crucial since they are largest age group of consumers in the world. In addition to the size of this market, they are highly educated and racially diverse. The qualities of this age group in conjunction with their increasing buying power makes them worth the adjustments in your marketing.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Amazon vs. Brick and Mortar

Builder and Fixer David Otani
 “Who is your competition?” This is a question I ask my retail customers and typically they respond with a few different company names, but rarely do they respond with Amazon.  Amazon’s ability to provide great pricing, critical product information including customer reviews, and deliver within a short period of time is the new standard for customer service. Retailers who cannot provide the same level of excellent service along with a great tactile experience which Amazon cannot do, will not succeed in retailing in the future.

Retailers, in general, are late to the technology party.  They are imbedded with legacy systems that were costly to deploy and now painful to write off.  That said, if retailers want to compete and stay relevant, they will have to improve their systems to provide the consumer with more information and keep track of their consumer’s activities across multiple channels.

The cost to garner a sale in brick and mortar is exponentially more expensive than on the web. However, a brick and mortar provides a tangible experience with immediate gratification that the web cannot. A brick and mortar shopping experience can include customer interaction, the ability to touch and feel a product and, of course, the option to leisurely browse the aisles of whatever products or displays that catch their eye.  Additionally, brick and mortar provides a branded experience that no third party re-seller can ever provide.

There will always be a place for brick and mortar in the retail world. This doesn’t mean the consumer will view brick and mortar with a different set of lenses. If anything, the consumer will expect more from brick and mortar because of the face to face customer experience. Therefore, brick and mortar should be determining the customer service standard, not Amazon.

 David Otani has been a retailer for over 25 years, opened over 300 stores and has held executive level positions as a general manager, planner, merchant, and real estate / construction director. David’s passion for retailing has allowed him to be part of many success stories, both new ventures as well as turnarounds.
Additionally, David lectures at FIT semi-annually, runs a Judo school, and is currently ranked number one in the U.S. in Judo in the masters division.

Monday, October 20, 2014

5 Ways to Boost In-Store Sales

Click to enlarge

A challenge every retailer faces is how to increase sales in their store. While you may have considered improving the checkout experience, or offering gift cards, the question remains whether these efforts are worth it to your bottom line.
Our latest infographic looks at five different changes and updates retailers can make in their existing business to increase sales and boost profits. In addition to offering ideas, real world examples of the effectiveness of these suggestions towards increasing sales are included.

Infographic Content

5 Ways to Boost In-Store Sales

As a small business owner, consider these five ways to increase in-store sales.

1. Invest In Sales Training 

What - Hire the right people and develop the right skills
Why - Having a trained sales staff is one of the main reasons people choose an in-store purchase over an online one. Recent research suggests that around forty percent of customers are open to persuasion and may need help making a product decision.

4 Steps in the Art of Selling
Open / Ask for Needs / Demonstrate / Close
Eighty-six percent of the time sales staff didn't ask to close the deal. Give your sales team skills they need to succeed in today's complex sales environment.

At one self-help apparel company, providing extra sales assistance during select hours increased fitting room use by thirty-seven percent, and increased conversion rates by up to two hundred percent.
A well-prepared, effective sales rep can result in almost four times more revenue for your business than a poor one.

2. Gift Cards and Loyalty Programs

What - Structured marketing efforts that reward, and therefore encourage, loyal buying behavior.

  • People will tend to buy full priced items with gift cards increasing your profit margins.
  • Customers who purchase goods with gift cards are much less likely to return or exchange an item saving on transaction costs.
  • Refunds can be issued through gift cards eliminating cash refunds.

Why - Gift cards will attract new customers to your store who will typically purchase more than the gift card amount and make a return visit.

Over $100 billion is spent on gift cards annually with a staggering ninety-three percent of U.S. consumers purchasing or receiving a gift card annually.
At fifty-eight percent, over half of consumers still purchase gift cards at in-house retailers and mall kiosks - compared to forty-two percent of consumers who purchase gift cards online.
Seventy-two percent of customers will spend about twenty percent more at your store than the value of their gift card.
Twenty percent of customers never use the full value of the card - the remaining balance is revenue for your business.

3. Mobile Point of Sales Systems

What - Save as much as $10,000 on start up costs using a POS system compared to a traditional cash register, and increase you and your staffs' efficiency and effectiveness.
Why - Around twenty-six point two percent of businesses are considering switching to a mobile POS system.

Why Mobile POS?

  • Get real-time inventory information
  • Get customer stats on demand
  • Automatically email receipts
  • Streamline your sales processes
  • Some POS systems integrate with your accounting software
  • Enhance the customer experience, deliver unique offers to individual customers
  • Less expensive than traditional POS systems and cash registers

Nordstrom rolled out point-of-sale devices allowing customers to check out from anywhere in the store.
This efficiency reduced the potential amount of customers have to think about their purchases before they reach the register.
Total retail sales increased from $1.5 billion to $1.73 billion for the same period - a 15.3 percent increase!
The average number of items sold and the average selling price both increased after implementing the mobile point-of-sale devices

4. Online/Social

What - Offering a consistent and streamlined shopping/browsing/marketing experience both online and over social media can increase your in-store sales.
Why -

  • 88 percent of consumers are researching items online and then buying them in a physical store.
  • 78 percent of small businesses attract new customers through social media.
  • More than 50 percent of in-store retail sales in the US will be influenced by the web by the year 2017.

Retail Stores / Online Stores / Local Search Ads / Mobile Stores / Mobile App Stores / Social Media

Customers that arrive at a store after visiting the store's website on average spend thirty-seven percent more in-store than those that have not yet visited.
By spending as little as 6 hours per week, more than sixty-six percent of marketers see lead generation benefits though social media.

5. Location Based Mobile Marketing

What - Beacons are easy to use, affordable devices that SMBs can use in-store. They enable wireless communication with customer smart devices, which allows the SMB to communicate with them in proximity to or in-store.
Why - Beacons allow SMBs to broadcast offers to nearby consumers deliver relevant, targeted messages, and collect and track data to help improve marketing outreach effectiveness in the future.

Hillshire farms promoted their American Craft Link Sausages and saw:
  • A thirty-six percent increase in brand awareness and lift in overall sales.
  • A five hundred percent increase over the CPG average for mobile ad engagement.


To view the original article visit:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Why Retailers Will Love the Apple Pay Era

Why Retailers Will Love the Apple Pay Era
Photograph by Monica Davey/Corbis

Retailers should be particularly excited for Monday’s debut of Apple Pay, which promises to be an excellent tool for separating shoppers and their money.
Apple’s (AAPL) mobile payment service will let iPhone users buy things by simply pulling out their device. Researchers have long found that shoppers spend more the further they get from handling actual currency and tend to better remember cash transactions. These tendencies help explain why credit card balances tend to bloat and why casinos use chips in place of money. It’s also why companies such as Starbucks (SBUX) encourage customers to load money onto apps or prepaid cards.
Behavioral economists have a term for this dynamic: decoupling. The card or app or casino chip mentally separates the consumer from his bank account. The payment is both delayed and bundled with other charges so it doesn’t seem so painful. Citibank tested the research in 2009 and found a mobile “tap to pay” pilot program significantly boosted both the number and size of consumer transactions.
Buying things without cash is simply more fun. Richard Thaler, a behavioral economist at the University of Chicago, proved such transactions are more pleasurable experiences (PDF). Anyone who has ever walked away from an Uber ride knows this feeling well. With credit card data embedded in the app’s settings, someone using the service never actually pays or even tips—at least not in any physical way.
The question with Apple’s new payment service is whether it’s an additional degree of distance from credit cards or merely taking the well-established place of plastic in the psychology of shopping. Apple Pay doesn’t require any swiping or tapping, which seems to suggest a new level of abstraction. With a fingerprint on the iPhone button and a little wave at the cash register, the deal is done. “Now paying in stores happens in one natural motion,” Apple says in its pitch. “You don’t even have to look at the screen.”
Some 220,000 stores are already set up to accept the payments, including Bloomingdale’s, Foot Locker, Macy’s, McDonald’s, and PetSmart. The list also includes RadioShack, a retailer desperately in need of a revenue boost. The other brick-and-mortar companies in that troubled camp—J.C. Penney (JCP), Sears (SHLD)—would do well to get onboard.
To view the original article visit: Bloomberg Business Week

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Transformation Tuesday eReceipts and Mobile POS

Remember how receipts used to look like back in the day when you had to physically write everything down?

Today, paperless receipts are now common in American Retail. It is beneficial for both the consumer and the retailer because it is cost effective, more secure, and it offers the opportunity to extend the customer relationship and attach an email address to sales transactions.

We went from cash registers like this….

To registers like this…
To our current Mobile POS systems that look like this! With Mobile POS you can move through lines faster to increase sales, check inventory and pricing, and increase customer service. Thank goodness for innovative solutions!

For more information on mobile POS options available on the market, contact us by phone 800.266.1328 or request a free consultation.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Optimism Shines as National Retail Federation Forecasts Holiday Sales to Increase 4.1%


Washington, October 7, 2014 – After a turbulent start to 2014, the National Retail Federation announced today it expects sales in November and December (excluding autos, gas and restaurant sales) to increase a healthy 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion, higher than 2013’s actual 3.1 percent increase during that same time frame.

Holiday sales on average have grown 2.9 percent over the past 10 years, including 2014’s estimates, and are expected to represent approximately 19.2 percent of the retail industry’s annual sales of $3.2 trillion. This would mark the first time since 2011 that holiday sales would increase more than 4 percent.

“Retailers could see a welcome boost in holiday shopping, giving some companies the shot in the arm they need after a volatile first half of the year and an uneventful summer,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “While expectations for sales growth are upbeat, it goes without saying there still remains some uneasiness and anxiety among consumers when it comes to their purchase decisions. The lagging economic recovery, though improving, is still top of mind for many Americans.

“Recognizing the need to keep household budgets in line, we expect shoppers will be extremely price sensitive as they have been for quite some time. Retailers will respond by differentiating themselves and touting price, value and exclusivity,” continued Shay.

While consumer confidence has been unstable much of the year, improvements over the past few months in key economic indicators will give way to increased spending power among holiday shoppers. Retail sales, jobs and housing data all point to healthy gains.  

“Though we have only seen consumer income and spending moderately – and erratically – accelerate this year, we believe there is still room for optimism this holiday season,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “In the grand scheme of things, consumers are in a much better place than they were this time last year, and the extra spending power could very well translate into solid holiday sales growth for retailers; however, shoppers will still be deliberate with their purchases, while hunting for hard-to-pass-up bargains.”

NRF’s holiday sales forecast is based on an economic model using several indicators including, consumer credit, disposable personal income, and previous monthly retail sales releases. It now includes the non-store category (direct-to-consumer, kiosks and online sales.) For historic sales information visit NRF’s Holiday Headquarters and the Retail Insight Center.
Retailers could see a welcome boost in holiday shopping this year.
" Forecasts Online Sales to Grow Between 8 - 11% This Holiday Season" - Matthew Shay NRF President and CEO today released its 2014 online holiday sales forecast, expecting sales in November and December to grow between 8 – 11 percent over last holiday season to as much as $105 billion.** forecasts sales based on government data including, consumer credit, disposable personal income, and previous monthly retail sales releases. Holiday non-store sales in 2013 grew 8.6 percent.
Holiday 2014 Sales Infographic

Holiday 2014 Hiring Infographic

NRF Forecasts Seasonal Employment to Grow Between 725,000 – 800,000
According to NRF, retailers are expected to hire between 725,000 and 800,000 seasonal workers this holiday season, potentially more than they actually hired during the 2013 holiday season (768,000). Seasonal employment in 2013 increased 14 percent over the previous holiday season.
“These holiday positions offer hundreds of thousands of people the opportunity to turn their seasonal position into a long-term career opportunity in retail,” said Shay.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

3 Ways to Attract Repeat Customers

Written by: Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle

There’s a misconception in retail that you need to gain new customers all the time when in reality, repeat customers are what any business should aim for. Of course, gaining new customers along the way should remain on any business owner’s to-do-list – but if you treat all customers in way that makes them want to return, merchants are more likely to gain long-term success.
Below are three strategies to help retailers and other small business owners alike in combating “one and only” sales and instead gaining repeat, loyal customers.

Employee Engagement 
Many businesses overlook the value of their employees and the impact they have on their customers. Particularly in retail, restaurant and service oriented businesses, employee and customer engagement is a key piece to the customer loyalty puzzle. The reason for this is actually very simple. People like to go to places that they enjoy, and they like to go places even more when they respect and enjoy the people who work there. This includes the employees – not just the owner or manager – whom they engage with.

Making employees a priority through customer service trainings, expectations and overall store standards can help create a destination that customers will enjoy not only for the product or services offered, but for the employees, as well. Setting standards within your own hiring and training habits can strengthen this, while delivering quarterly, bi-annual or at the very least, annual reviews can help, also.

Customer Value 
The Barking Cat storefront in Salem, MA is well known for it’s outstanding customer service and in return, repeat customers.
Christopher Barnard, President and Co-Founder of Points – a company dedicated to making loyalty programs more valuable and engaging – believes that offering rewards, miles or “points” is key in attracting repeat business.

“Today’s shoppers are looking for more than just products to buy: they’re also looking for points, miles and rewards to accompany their purchases. At Points, we recently surveyed over 1,500 loyalty program members from across North America to learn more about the ways that consumers want to earn with their favorite loyalty programs. The results revealed that the majority of shoppers have redemption goals in their programs (81%), and they are willing to work toward them. 66% percent of consumers agree that earning even small amounts of points or miles in a loyalty program is important to them,” explains Barnard.
Product Knowledge
Let’s face it – if you’re a small business owner competing with the big dogs like Walmart, Target TGT -0.97% or any other nationally recognized business, you have a few disadvantages at your side. This said, you also have countless advantages to your side… such as knowing your product or services offered better than anyone in your marketplace. By positioning your brand, store or business as a leader in product knowledge, customers will return to your business for stronger support, trusted expertise and valued insight over your competitors. Plus, this also puts you in a position to gain media attention by becoming your local market’s go-to-resource whenever it comes to needing insight on what you sell.

With this in mind, sharing your expertise is also a great way to lure consumers of other businesses to yours – particularly when combined with stellar employees and reward based incentives. In fact, the Points study mentioned earlier also revealed that 69% of consumers said they would break their own habits and buy a different brand or from a different company to earn more points or miles.  As Barnard explains, “this information can really help pave the way for retailers and merchants that are interested in developing a loyalty program to woo shoppers.”

To view the original article visit: Forbes

Friday, September 26, 2014

How Personalization Takes Digital Receipts from Good to Great

From: flexReceipts

Looking around at an empty store can put a knot in your stomach.

Getting people in the door is a growing challenge for retailers. It’s so much easier for customers to sit on their couch and order what they need online. I’m guilty of it myself.

Smart retailers know that the key to making that trip worthwhile is creating a flawless shopping experience that makes every customer feel unique and appreciated.

In Personalization, Details Matter
It starts with the little things.
Like being greeted when you walk in the door. Getting waited on within minutes by smart, friendly salespeople who know the merchandise and can answer your questions. Even a good checkout experience can be memorable.

But it also comes down to money. Don’t you love it when you get a special offer on a product you buy all the time? Even if you don’t use the discount, you remember that you received it and were appreciated as a valued customer.

A recent survey by Infosys [LINK TO:] found that 59% of shoppers who have experienced personalization believe it has a noticeable influence on their purchases. In fact, 78% of consumers are more likely to be a repeat customer if a retailer provides them with targeted, personalized offers.

 Putting Your Receipt to Work

flexReceipts gives you the power to give your customers a consistently great experience throughout their entire in-store experience. While they’re shopping, your sales associates can retrieve their shopping history to find similar or complementary products. Once they reach checkout, the attendant can quickly locate their name and billing information, email, mobile number and loyalty card info without having to ask for it again.  

Here’s where the experience goes from great to memorable: Each customer’s flexReceipt is personalized based on their current and past purchases, how often they shop with you, demographics and other data.

 When your customers open their digital receipt they’ll experience an extension of their visit -- offers tailored to their interests, maybe a video about the brand, links to your social media sites, and the opportunity to pin or like their product on their own social media pages.

It’s like putting a beautiful bow on a great shopping experience gift – and one more way to extend the benefits of personalization and keep customers coming back for more.

For more information visit: flexReceipts

Monday, September 22, 2014

Future proofing mobile point-of-sale

September 10, 2014 | By Jean-Marc Thienpont 
Recently, I was out shopping with my children and we saw a pay phone bolted to the wall near the checkout line of a store. It didn’t appear to be operational, but there it stood. “What’s that?” my 11-year-old daughter asked.

Of course, the question made me feel old. But I was also struck by the pay phone’s proximity to the checkout line. Working in the mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) space, I wondered if in 20 years, my grandchildren would see a traditional checkout desk and ask my daughter, “What’s that?”  Just as the pay phone concept was disrupted by mobile phones, checkout stations are being affected by mPOS systems.

Merchants are facing unprecedented change. The pace of technological advancement accelerates each year, and sometimes merchants have to make very quick, tough calls on what to adopt and what to skip. In the U.S., the upcoming EMV (Europay, MasterCard, Visa) liability shift has further complicated matters.

Physical stores will no doubt continue to exist for many, many years. In fact, we are seeing a trend toward e-commerce companies opening traditional brick-and-mortar stores — something that was unthinkable in the heady e-commerce days of the early 2000s. However, the form factor for checkout will evolve to enable merchants to secure a sale as soon as consumers have made their purchase decision. Customers will also expect flexibility when it comes to checkout — and that may mean that rather than centralized checkout lines, merchants will need to offer options such as kiosks, roaming employees with mPOS capabilities on tablets, and may even enable customers to self-checkout via their own mobile devices. As retailers navigate the rapidly evolving mPOS landscape there are some important considerations to keep in mind. For example:

Insist on the latest security certifications and regulatory compliance: This includes PCI (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) and EMV, but also less stimulating terminology such as tokenization and layered security. The need for top-notch security should be obvious is in an era rife with security breaches. Yes many mPOS systems don’t incorporate the very latest security features. Beware.

While there is debate in the payments community about the merits of EMV, at this point it’s fait accompli. The U.S. is the only first-world country not currently utilizing EMV. Merchants must get prepared for EMV card transactions, and further they should assume they’ll need to securely process both chip and sign and chip and PIN transactions. Merchants currently in the market for payment processing technology that don’t consider these facts will find themselves with the equivalent of a Betamax system in a year or two.

Look for flexibility: Many merchants are concerned about emerging payments methods such as mobile wallets and Bitcoin. They want to accommodate customers, but not at the expense of security. Most merchants with which we work are taking a slow and cautious approach, but there are early adopter exceptions. We are currently working with one of the world’s largest fast-food chains on an mPOS solution — an overlay to their existing in-store payment infrastructure — that accepts open- and closed-loop mobile wallets, plus different types of card transactions (magnetic stripe, NFC, chip & PIN and chip & signature). We expect more of these types of projects in the coming year.

Look for application program interfaces (APIs) that allow for customization: When the first rudimentary mPOS solutions were introduced in the early 2000s, no customization options were available. Everything was served up out of the box, with little or no integration. Most were really just card readers, with no software except an interface to a secure card processing backend.

Today’s mPOS solutions provide powerful software that allows merchants to choose their own processor, integrate with back-end systems such as inventory and accounting systems, white label the user interface, and add features such as alternative payment type acceptance or loyalty program integration. Much of this is made possible by APIs provided by mPOS vendors. APIs enable merchants or third parties to easily integrate other systems with an mPOS solution, and also to customize features and interfaces as needed. An mPOS system that doesn’t feature APIs may not get along as well with other payments infrastructure and potentially restrict usage of new features in coming year.

Make sure fixed and mPOS solutions a seamlessly integrated for an omnichannel experience: Remember many merchants kept their brick-and-mortar and e-commerce units separate? It became a logistical nightmare, with major inventory and accounting issues. POS technology needs to be look at holistically - not in terms of fixed or mobile — because customers don’t view them separately. All POS checkout options — fixed, mobile or online — need to provide a consistent interface and backend to ensure customer convenience and better manage the omnichannel experience.
While it may not be possible to completely future proof a mPOS system, choosing one that can accommodate updates and new features is essential to allow merchants to keep up with the blistering pace of innovation in the retail technology world.

To view the original article visit:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Apple Pay- What Does it Mean For Your Business


September 11, 2014
Apple Pay
Apple’s recent unveiling of its new iPhone 6 and Apple Pay platform has sparked a lot of conversation surrounding mobile payments, near field communications (NFC) and the future of mobile commerce. With Apple finally adopting NFC and entering the payments space, you may have some questions regarding how this might affect you and your business.
Merchant Warehouse has followed the announcement and the technology closely all in an effort to help our partners and customers understand the opportunities of Apple Pay and NFC enabled payments present for their businesses.

How will Apple Pay work?
Apple Pay syncs a few of Apple’s existing programs together and when coupled with the new NFC chips in the iPhone 6 can create a seamless payment experience at the point-of-sale. By combining NFC and the account information Apple already has with iTunes, the ability to store other credit, debit, gift and loyalty cards with Passbook, a secure element with their TouchID thumb print imaging, Apple Pay delivers a seamless and secure wallet solution for retail environments and mobile check-out.

What’s the biggest impact Apple Play will have on our industry?
Apple’s introduction into the payments space will have two inherent outcomes: (1) applications that rely on NFC will be developed at a more rapid pace; and (2) consumers should finally start adopting mobile payments. To date, there havent been that many mobile wallets or applications that have taken advantage of NFC. But with NFC being incorporated in the iPhone 6, we can expect more and more applications using the NFC functionality for not only payment apps, but for other practical functions.

It has long been predicted that Apple would be the catalyst for mobile payments. They distribute the most popular mobile devices in the world, have a loyal customer base that integrate different aspects of their lives to their hardware and software and an avid developer community that develops applications to exploit their devices’ functionality.

We already trust Apple (and other mobile devices and platforms) with some of our most important daily functions. It’s only a matter of time before consumers begin to trust and adopt Apple Pay to be their payment method of choice.

Merchant Warehouse is very excited for the opportunities that Apple Pay will bring for businesses. Our Genius Customer Engagement Platform was designed for these types of innovations in mind. The NFC readers in our Genius devices can accept Apple Pay payments today and it will continue to evolve with future innovations.

To view the original article visit: Merchant Warehouse

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How To Use Technology To Provide A Better Customer Experience

By Scott Kreisberg, One Step Retail Solutions

I’ve been in the retail industry for more than 20 years and I can tell you that today’s modern shopper is tech-savvy and constantly on the go. With the use of technology implemented in society, shoppers expect retailers to be just as up to date, if not more, when it comes to their retail experience. It’s imperative to rapidly and effectively service your customers and maximize their in-store experience so they turn into long-term customers. In order to combat the issue of living in today’s fast-paced society, it’s vital to utilize the technologies available to you, so you can stay relevant and provide a lasting impression with your customers.

Mobile POS
There’s no secret, exceptional customer service is still the key in creating a lasting and positive shopping experience for your customer. However, 50% of shoppers today price check online, and 32% expect a retailer to be able to order an item not in stock and have it shipped to their home. Mobile POS allows sales associates to provide an in-store experience the consumer can’t get online, giving the retailer a better chance to make that sale. By using a mobile POS, sales associates can effectively move through lines faster to create a quick and positive customer service experience. Sales can be rung up at the point of decision with a mobile POS and associates can up sell by suggesting accessories to buy with a purchase. Customers feel valued when an associate can locate an item not in stock and either have it sent to them directly or at a nearby store, offering the item they’re searching for. Long checkout lines are the quickest ways to lose a customer, so having a mobile POS allows an associate to hop in and make that sale. Reduced transaction time equals more sales and happier customers.

E-Receipts are booming in the retail industry because it gives you an opportunity to strategically market your campaigns with customized emails to your customers, based on what they like. A customer email address provides you powerful information because it is a fast way to learn and connect with your customers. Sending an E-Receipt allows you to send targeted email offers and advertisements based on past purchases. With HTML you can embed videos, provide web site links and consumer analytics so you know what customers are responding to. Additionally, you can assign each line item on a receipt to social media tabs, so customers can instantly post and share with their friends what and where they just made a purchase. E-Receipts are a great opportunity to connect with customers; by sending them relevant information you can position the customer to continuously come back.

Customer service innovation is being highly driven through technology today. It is key to stay up to date on current technology trends, while continuing to provide excellent customer service, which is the foundation of your business. As a retailer, you can offer discounts and specials to tempt customers, but at the end of the day the in-store shopping experience trumps all of that. The modern, tech-savvy consumer is the one driving the paradigm shift, so position yourself to the future and keep your customers coming back.

Scott Kreisberg is the Founder and CEO of One Step Retail Solutions. After graduating from college with a double Bachelors of Science degree in Finance and Marketing, Kreisberg established One Step Data in June of 1985. He consulted businesses, selling them computer hardware and software that made it easier for them to run their businesses more efficiently. In 1987, after some investigation, Kreisberg soon recognized that the retail POS/Inventory Control market was a niche yet to be developed for the small to medium-sized retailers. He came to the realization that with his passion for retail and knowledge of computer technology he could help many retailers.

View the original article at: Retail TouchPoints

Friday, September 12, 2014

Apple Pay Is Here — and There’s Just One Big Problem

Merchant Warehouse® and top retail technology reseller One Step Retail Solutions recently won the Innovative Solution Award for Best Partnership by the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) and Vertical Systems Reseller (VSR) Magazine. This award honors both companies for bringing Merchant Warehouse’s Genius™ Customer Engagement Platform™ to One Step Retail Solutions’ retail customers. Read below about how Merchant Warehouse feels about Apple Pay and what it means for retailers.


While many consumers are ready to embrace the new mobile-payments service, most retailers are not. At least, not yet

On Tuesday, Tim Cook took the stage to announce — in addition to a few other things you may have heard about — a brand new mobile payments service called Apple Pay. Instead of swiping a credit card, users of the service will swipe their iPhones (or Apple Watches), which can be preloaded with customer’s debit and credit cards using the Passbook application.
courtesy of Apple

Having one phone to rule all our cards sounds pretty great, and Apple is certainly positioned better than any other company to make mobile payments finally catch on. But there’s one issue the company still has to surmount before it can kill off plastic for good: Right now, the vast majority of retailers lack the technology to accept the company’s new payment service.

As CEO Tim Cook acknowledged during Apple’s announcement, only 220,000 stores will work with Apple Pay out of the gate. That’s about 2.4% of the roughly 7 million to 9 million merchants in the U.S. that accept credit cards. The remaining 97.6% of businesses do not have point-of-sale systems that work with near-field communication (NFC), the technology Apple Pay relies on. Merchants will have to upgrade their checkout process for Apple’s service to catch on, and the expense of such an endeavor has—thus far—left many businesses reluctant to do so.

Michael Archer, a partner leading the Global Financial Services practice at Kurt Salmon, thinks the major indicator of whether an Apple payment service will succeed is the number of locations prepared to accept NFC. According to Archer, who spoke to MONEY just before Apple Pay was announced, the service would need to be usable at about 20% of U.S. retail locations to reach critical mass of acceptance. So far, Apple isn’t close to hitting that number.

However, Archer points out that credit card companies may have an incentive to help stores acquire NFC technology to give their own cards an edge. “This could be a way to lock someone into the card if you can make it extremely convenient to use in the device,” said Archer. Another development he thinks could work in Apple’s favor is that merchants will soon be forced to upgrade their point-of-sale systems to accept EMV, a new card technology meant to reduce fraud. Card companies have given their customers until 2015 to make the transition, with laggards bearing increased liability for credit card fraud, but stores have dragged their feet. With the deadline approaching, more merchants may finally decide to upgrade and choose to add in NFC compatibility while they’re at it.

But not all experts are rosy on Apple’s chances for mobile payment domination—at least in the near term. George Wallner, co-founder and CTO of LoopPay, an Apple Pay competitor that uses existing point-of-sale infrastructure for mobile payments, predicts a slow acceptance of Apple Pay, and other NFC-dependent services like Softcard and Google Wallet. While Wallner was impressed by Apple’s demonstration, he says it will take more than the promise of Apple compatibility to get merchants to change their ways, especially when the status quo works just fine. “It’s not an easy change,” says Wallner. “It is a long, drawn-out, careful, extensive process. It can take six to eight months to even certify a new system. Retailers look at the bottom line, and they see nobody is offering a financial incentive for them to change.” According to the LoopPay founder, even increased fraud liability may not be costly enough to spur a jump in NFC adoption.

That said, Wallner believes that over time, merchants will gradually upgrade their equipment to support Apple Pay. In a decade, he sees NFC having significant market penetration and co-existing with both older and newer payment technology.

One feature that might convince merchants to upgrade ahead of schedule would be a way for businesses to use Apple Pay to reward loyal customers. According to Archer, a slightly more convenient way to pay, by itself, doesn’t provide enough value to customers or merchants to force a change in behavior. Integrating loyalty programs into Apple Pay, on the other hand, would give merchants a reason to upgrade their terminals and consumers a reason to use the service. Passbook, which powers Apple Pay, also integrates with multiple retailers’ loyalty cards.
Apple “is going to be playing on the cool factor on the first round of this,” said Henry Helgeson, CEO of Merchant Warehouse, a company that helps retailers implement mobile payments. “The real value is when merchants can put loyalty in those wallets and get repeat business. It’s something that they know and retailers know is very important to them. We’re going to see version 2.0 with some of those things.”

Overall, Helgeson anticipates Apple Pay being a huge success. His company recently outfitted 3,000 retailers with upgraded point-of-sale systems that included an NFC reader. “I’m pretty happy about that decision right now,” said Helgeson.

To view the original article visit:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Key to Event Marketing Success

From our friends at SnapRetail
A successful in-store event is the perfect way to drive traffic, get to know your customers and have a great time doing it! Follow these tips to host a store event that will be one for the books.


Choose a theme

In the beginning stages of planning for your event, first choose a theme. The possibilities are endless, but could be based off of a holiday or special occasion - like your store's anniversary. To make an even bigger impact with your event, consider pairing up with a charity. Any avenue you choose when selecting a theme will make promoting your event easier and more enticing for your customers.
FBEvent Example

Choose a time and date

Plan your event far in advance to allow you enough time to promote your event and gather all necessary materials for the big day. If you're planning your event around a holiday or special occasion, choose a date and time that is most convenient, not only for your store, but for those attending as well. You could host events during store hours, but also have the option to stay open late with an "after hours" event. To determine which option is best for your event, take everyone's preferences into consideration.


Develop your marketing plan

Promoting your event is one of the most important parts of the planning process and is a huge reason why choosing a date far enough in advance is important. Rushing a promotion will make it less likely to be successful. Plan out enough time to allow you to draw in and hook your audience.

Tease your audience on social media, email and in-store to generate excitement. Make statements and ask questions that get customers interested. Consider using messages like, "Something big is happening at our store! Want to know more? Stay tuned!" or "Sign up for our email list if you want to be the first to know about our big surprise!"
FBEvent Example2

Invite your customers in every way possible. Tap into social media, email, traditional advertising, print advertising and any other way your creativity takes you, to spread the word. This step in your marketing plan is crucial to make sure your event is well-attended. Inviting your customers and their friends goes hand-in-hand with teasing your audience. You will be adding to the excitement by providing the details they have been waiting for.

Another way to invite customers is to utilize Facebook. Create a Facebook event page to bring everyone invited together before your event. This will serve the purpose of sharing updates and all details in a centralized place for those attending.
FBEvent Example3

Remind your customers of your event. After generating all of the excitement and releasing the details of your event, you need to seal the deal with reminders. You can remind your customers by sending out an email and scheduling posts to your social networks at several different times of the day to reach as many people as possible. Remind your customers on social media five, three and one day(s) prior to your event.
FBEvent Example4

Pull out all of the stops

There is a lot that needs to go into making your event successful. Don't leave any stone unturned when making your store event the best of the year. Add elements that take your efforts above and beyond.

Provide live updates by uploading photos and videos in real time for your social media following who were unable to attend. This is an easy way to encourage them to come to your next event!

Encourage customers who have attended to also upload photos, tag your store and use your hashtag to their own personal social networks. This will allow your awesome event to reach an even broader audience and create (free) buzz.


Document your event

In addition to live updates, document photos and videos that you can upload to social and send in an email at a later date. Documenting your event will serve multiple purposes. You will be able to show off what a wonderful time you had with your customers, and bring more customers to your next event. Additionally, updates serve as a way to reflect on your event and aid in planning/improving your next event.


Give thanks and follow up

After all that has gone into planning this spectacular event of yours, it wouldn't have been possible without your customers who have attended. Once your event has passed, thank your customers who have attended in addition to those who didn't, but have been supporting your brand all along. A little thanks goes a long way and customer appreciation should become a habit.
FBEvent Example5

 Despite the planning and effort that goes into hosting a successful event, it will be well worth your while. Events give you the opportunity to get to know and interact with your customers, while giving them a chance to appreciate all that you do. For everything you need to know to make your event the talk of the town, download our Event Marketing Success Bundle!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Connect with Your Customers Using Social Media

Peter Pishko VP of Operations at One Step Retail Solutions

Recently while researching a prospect, I visited their web site and read an interesting time line on the origins of the company. It was very witty and clearly demonstrated the lifestyle of the founders and accurately portrayed the atmosphere of the company, namely fun. It was quite a read, but the timeline stopped in 2006. Now, I know that the company still exists and is in very healthy shape (kudos these days) but the company history on their website was incomplete. I wanted to know more and was interested in the more recent history. As we all gravitate towards these new marketing tools, that is exactly what they are on a personal and business level, it is important they are updated regularly. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter are great methods of keeping in communication with your customers, but they must be maintained.
Think of it this way, a customer takes the time to become a fan of your business or sign up on Facebook because they are interested in what's new and exciting with your operation. As you are opening boxes and merchandising new product on your sales floor, send out alerts, let them know. Add photos of your staff modeling the new assortment, your staff will love it. We used to send out direct mail to our best customers and it was tough to be timely. We had to schedule and print postcards and mail them out to ensure that the customer received the notification with enough notice so they could attend the trunk show etc. E-mail blasts were a great alternative until the SPAM gods came along and made it very difficult to stay out of the spam filter especially when attachments are involved. Now you can give notice of an upcoming event and remind them multiple times. Just as your customers have shown you a commitment by signing up for your information updates, show interest in them by maintaining and continuing the exchange of communication. Customer service is all about commitment, so assign a dedicated individual to maintain your social networking site and reap the benefits of this instant and free communication with your most valuable of assets.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Small Biz Suggestion Box


Your store may not have a physical "suggestion box," but there are many new ways to find helpful feedback that may not be so obvious. The more you know your audience, the better you can tailor your messaging to resonate with their interests and needs. Owning and/or operating an independent business is hard work, and sometimes it's easy to be too close to the project to see the bigger picture.

Customer feedback is the key to a successful business. In the age of social media, chances are if a customer has a bad experience, you can say goodbye to that customer AND their friends. That's why embracing customer feedback is the key to keeping your business alive and well. A cardboard box sitting on your retail counter can't always get the job done. Here are some suggestions on getting productive feedback:
  1. Use Email Marketing. Send regular emails to customers about sales, new products and store updates to keep them involved. You can simply send out an email campaign that says, "Tell us what you think!" for an open-ended approach. Depending on your mailing list size, you can prompt your customers to reply back with feedback or an answer to your open-ended question. Another option is to provide a small survey for customers to fill out online using a free tool such as Survey Monkey. Asking for feedback through email gives customers the time to think through their answer rather than putting them on the spot.
  2. Include Incentives. When asking customers to give feedback, try to incorporate an incentive, "Please take the time to fill out this customer survey and automatically be entered to win 50% off of your next purchase." This way people who may not have thought about giving their feedback initially, may reconsider. You can give away prizes such as gift cards or a basket filled with some of your most popular products. These incentives can help boost online engagement and drive more customers into your store. Incentives can be used for more than just feedback. If you're gathering donations for a charity or hosting a contest; be creative!
    artisan basket.PNG
  3. Ask Your Employees. More often than not, employees have great suggestions but aren't sure if it's their place to speak up. Encourage your employees to submit any ideas they might have to boost sales or improve business. Have a "brainstorming" meeting with your employees and encourage everyone to speak freely about their new ideas.
  4. Use Facebook and Twitter. Facebook and Twitter are the perfect ways to reach a massive audience in one or two simple sentences. Update your social media sites with a status or tweet reading, "We want to hear from you! Comment below (or tweet us) your favorite product that we carry. Those who comment will be entered to win our latest giveaway!" Give a deadline to create a sense of urgency and encourage more people to participate. On a Facebook Page, there is an exclusive tab for customer reviews built into the profile. Customers can give your business a rating based on a five star scale as well as write a brief testimonial. First time visitors to your Facebook Page will see your business's average rating on the left-hand side of the page.
    Pats -Monograms1
  5. Let customers stock the shelves. There is always a chance that there are great products out there that you have never even heard of. Have a "Stock Our Shelves!" event, where customers come and submit their ideas about products they believe would be a good fit for your store. Take these new products into serious consideration because it's a great way to keep customers coming back if you are the only store in the area that carries their favorite brand.
  6. Build a presence on review platforms. There are websites that serve the purpose of an online suggestion box. Add your business's information to websites such as Yelp, Google Places, Truelocal and more. Refer to our roundup below and update your listings.
Encourage customers to give your business a review. Include links to these sites in your monthly newsletter or in-store signage. The more reviews and traffic you receive, the more likely you are to appear in search results. This is a great way to gain new customers through the feedback and loyalty of existing ones.
Try out a few different ways to get customer feedback to figure out what works best for your store. Whether you host contests, develop email campaigns or build your presence on review platforms, you'll be sure to hear a lot of suggestions to implement into your marketing.  
To view the original article visit: The Small Biz Suggestion Box